Chris Floyd: Case study

at Rolls Royce plc

CSaP Policy Fellow 2012 - 2014
Business Development Director, Rolls-Royce plc

23 August 2013

How should large multinationals work with governments and academia around the world? This was the core question I wanted to address when I decided to become a CSaP Policy Fellow.

Rolls-Royce is a truly global company, selling products and services in over 150 countries, with manufacturing activities in 20 countries. But the degree to which we engage with local universities and governments varies significantly, and is not always optimal. Developing a framework and a set of guidelines for more effective globalisation, if it is possible at all, is not straightforward. The CSaP approach, of arranging a large number of meetings with a very diverse range of experts, seemed to me to be an extremely good way of getting insights to underpin a more thorough debate on the topic.

I approached my initial five days of meetings with some trepidation, and with an expectation that only a small proportion would really add value. In the event, I was amazed to find that every single meeting was useful. As an additional benefit, I also found that simply taking time out from the day job to converse, think and reflect was valuable in its own right.

As I expected, I met many experts, providing detailed knowledge of countries and their governments; insights into how others address the challenge of globalisation; theories on supply chain structures; understanding of international intellectual property law; ideas on new technologies; and so on. All of this provided a vast amount of raw material that will inform my company. But what I didn’t expect were the additional insights and information that came from unexpected or chance encounters, and these proved as important, or even more so.

The University is a collection of individuals, and serendipity plays a big role in the development of ideas. Some of the people I met in corridors while going between meetings sparked off new lines of enquiry. Conversations that started on planned topics, and were simply reinforcing what I already knew, suddenly veered off into new territories. A meeting on technology topics led to an introduction to a key minister; a discussion about Brazil became a meeting about the Middle East; a meeting on supply chain structures turned into a debate about strategy development. I could go on.

Over the next two years, further conversations with the academics I have met will doubtless lead in turn to yet further introductions and new avenues to explore. I also look forward to more interaction with other Fellows, and to giving lectures at Judge Business School, playing my part in bringing my knowledge and experience to the University.